Merida plans full work schedule for Horner. Sales must climb.
Persistent rumors and knowledge sources claim that Chris Horner will shortly sign a contract with ProTour squad Lampre-Merida.
The holdup seems to be whether bike supplier and title sponsor Merida is willing to pay the salary of the Vuelta a Espana winner. That decision is a difficult one for Merida management as they assess Horner’s sales impact on their bike products.
“Certainly, we will sell more of the top-end bikes — the Scuptura and Reacto — that is a given,” said Zao Tsang, a spokesman for the company. “But we must ask ourselves, if Horner can help us with city bikes and kid models. If we sell a thousand more Brads (Merida’s BMX kids bike — ed) then it’s worth it to hire him.”
Executives at Merida are holding discussions on how Horner could best raise sales figures for the entire Merida line before inking a deal with the 42 year old from Bend, Oregon.
“It’s a big call for them, a definite step up in the marketplace,” says Will Fourcast, a sporting goods sales analyst. “Say Horner gets a result in the Tour of the Basque Country, — will that boost sales of Merida’s Dakar bike with coaster brakes and training wheels? Will moms and dads say, cool, yeah, we get Timmy that little Dakar and maybe someday he wins the Vuelta like Chris.”
According to Fourcast, Horner and his agent are hammering out details on his participation in all of Merida’s marketing events and promotions. “Is he willing to make some personal visits to grade schools and talk about the products and feature benefits of Merida’s kids bikes? Is he ready to make a pitch for Merida’s excellent line of women’s bikes like the S-Presso 100? Those are the marketing questions Merida has to ask and Chris has to answer.”
With the race season already underway and Horner still without a team, he may be forced to take a more hands-on role in selling not just Merida race bikes but the entire inventory. “We value Mr. Horner’s participation in our efforts to become number one in the global marketplace, “said Tsang. “He must race hard but he must sell even harder. No bike sales, no paycheck.”
According to one insider with knowledge of the complicated contract arrangements, the 42 year old Horner will not be required to race a full schedule but to earn his keep at Merida, will take a head marketing position at Merida with responsibility for meeting aggressive sales targets. “He will have his lycra and his suit and tie,” said Tsang. “Nobody gets a free ride. We come to Samuel Sanchez with same deal but he is a lazy man.”